Proselyting - What it Means
It is exceedingly important for volunteer duty chaplains to know the meaning of the word “proselytize.”
Lexico.com offers a definition of “proselytize” that works well for chaplaincy: “The action of attempting to convert someone from one religion, belief, or opinion to another.”
For sure, we are not in the role of changing a patient’s mind. Even if a patient’s belief seems wrong or hurtful, we must not in any way try to change the beliefs of patients. If you feel an inclination to do so, leave the room. This is protection for you as well as for the patient.
Within each person’s application to serve as a volunteer duty chaplain he or she has agreed not to proselytize within this work.
Here is an incident that will illustrate a breach: A patient told a duty chaplain, “I have lived a good life.” The duty chaplain said, “Being ‘good’ is not enough.”
Fortunately, this was not bothersome enough for the patient to file a complaint. But, he did tell me about it. So, this could have become a grievance.
We can pray inwardly within such circumstances as we leave the room. We are trained to show God’s loving care—and to be His presence among all we serve—while serving in the hospital setting where people come for medical care. However, we cannot attempt to change anyone’s existing belief or opinions within the hospital. There are other settings in which evangelical work can be done. The hospital is not one of those settings.
We represent the God on whom our faith is based while showing compassion, empathy and unconditional warm regard. We are winsome, simply by being a representative of our Lord and His caring love.
While in training as an intern at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. (We know that hospital now as “Banner”) the hospital’s attorney spoke to us chaplains saying words to this effect, “If within your work you instigate a patient’s change of their belief structure and if when the patient returns home there is an upset within the family because of this, the hospital can be sued—and will lose the lawsuit.”
We work here to help people—and to also help this hospital serve our community expediently. We are vessels of care and love.
We have to keep our commitment to do so without causing any harm.
If a patient asks a question such as, “How can I be prepared to meet God?” “Or, what do you believe about God?” you can share with them—but preface with, “Because you have asked, I can say . . .” keeping the relating of your faith as a telling of your story. Owning it.
Sharing Scripture can be done based the patient’s desire for you to do so. We need to be “in tune” with what the patient wants from us. Asking, “May I . . . .” –showing deference toward what is best for that person.
Please understand, I, too, long to bring people to Christ. We Christians are responsible to do that based on Scripture. However, I work to bless, uplift and show Christian love in this setting, knowing this is a healthcare business within which our community is greatly helped. We do ask if patients want prayer. When they say, “yes” to that, we are blessing them in very significant ways. And, there are times when a patient wants to know what we believe.
Often, they will ask, “What church do you go to?” I have found the best way to answer that is to say, “I am a Christian. For me, being a Christian creates opportunity to be in relationship with God, so this path is different from ‘being religious.’” If asked, “How’s so?” or something like that, I can share my faith.” Otherwise, I’m on dangerous ground.
Please let me know if you want more clarity on this subject. We can talk at any time. A conversation on this matter is always welcome as it is a difficult subject for most chaplains. Yet, it is among the most essential. When needed, a conversation can be set up by calling or texting me for an appointed time.
We all look toward the times when a patient says, “How can I be sure I will go to Heaven?” This happened for me yesterday with a patient who was placed on comfort care and referred to hospice. Soon after arriving in her room, she asked, “What religion are you?”
I said, “I am a Christian.”
Her face lit up as she said, “My mother was a Christian!” Then she spoke of fearing she would not be going to heaven.
I asked if I could share a Scripture from the Bible that addresses this concern. She said, “Yes.” So, I recited John 14: 1-6. 
The patient’s face lit up. She said, “I remember! My mother told me that! I believe that!”
Needless to say, our work together ended well. Both she and her husband, who was by her side, stated their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ being their Savior. They knew heaven comes by receiving and believing in the Lord (John 1:12-13) It was a time of rejoicing. And, I left the room knowing Acts 20:35 is true, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Proselyting is out! But, when a patient “specifically” asks for help so they are better prepared to die, then this is when we can gently and lovingly say in words similar to this, “I am a Christian. I believe the Bible is God’s Word. Would you like for me to share with you what the Bible says about going to heaven and receiving eternal life?”
This is “in.” You can do this with similar openings.
 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many [a]mansions; if it were not so, [b]I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.” 5 Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ 6 Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”